Afghanistan airdrops surpass record levels in 2011
January 25, 2012
Editor's note: Cargo Aerial Delivery (CAD) of supplies and equipment to
Soldiers in the field has reached historic levels. In 2010 alone, 60 million
pounds of supplies were airdropped to deployed troops, and the 2011 total
exceeded 80 million pounds. The CAD Systems Team falls under the Product
Manager Force Sustainment Systems. PM-FSS is part of the Program Manager,
Force Projection, which falls under the Program Executive Office Combat
Support & Combat Service Support. CAD works closely with the Army and the
Air Force to provide precision and low cost airdrop capabilities to austere
and sometimes inaccessible locations in Afghanistan. Aerial Delivery
equipment is specialized by combining traditional round parachutes designs,
ram air parachutes and new disposable parachutes. Team members have unique
skill sets for managing airdrop delivery developments, including parachute
design, aircraft and systems integration, software design, autonomous
guidance systems, rigging procedure, cargo platform design, and helicopter
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- In 2011, mobility Airmen delivering airdrops reached a new annual record with 75,956,235 pounds of cargo delivered. That's nearly 16 million more pounds delivered than the previous record set in 2010 of 60,400,000.
At more than 75.9 million pounds - that's the equivalent of standing on a mountain top and watching 553 Army M1 Abrams tanks -- or even 11,868 Chevrolet Silverado trucks -- floating down from the sky with parachutes to a landing zone.
The record number, as recorded by Air Forces Central's Combined Air Operations Center at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia, is also larger than the total number of pounds delivered in Afghanistan by airdrop from
2006 to 2009 which combined is 60,525,969 pounds.
On average mobility Airmen airdropped 6,329,686 pounds of cargo each month in 2011. Mobility Airmen completing the airdrops flew C-130 Hercules and
C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from various deployed bases. They also completed the airdrops in various forms - from the the use of the traditional Container Delivery System, or CDS, bundles to the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPADS.
In November 2011, one U.S. Army discussed the importance of airdrops and how good they are getting after receiving a JPADS airdrop at Combat Outpost Herrera.
"I was real skeptical (of JPADS) at first," said Army Capt. Brandon Kimbrel, COP Herrera commander, in a Nov. 27 report by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri and Senior Airman Patrick McKenna of U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs in Southwest Asia. "After the drop, I was real impressed. We didn't see or hear the 'bird' at all. All of a sudden, we looked up and saw parachutes above us."
In the same AFCENT Public Affairs report, Army Staff Sgt. Denton Poe, 1st platoon sergeant at COP Herrera, said airdrops are vital.
"We're surrounded by mountains -- the snow sets in. The helicopter passes are impassible by helicopter and the roads could be clogged up," Poe said in the report. "Utilizing airdrops with the GPS-guided parachutes allows us that avenue to use in case we can't get resupplied by helicopters or vehicles by the road, which is a typical case come winter here."
Perfecting the use of airdrops for combat resupply as well as for humanitarian purposes continues to grow in the Air Force. In July 2011, Air Mobility Command led an international communication effort by holding the first International Airdrop Symposium at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
According to Maj. Patrick Linson, symposium chairperson from St. Joseph, Mo., where he serves as a combat tactics instructor in the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, or AATTC, the symposium was important "to build international partnerships in the airdrop and airlift communities."
The goal of the organizers, Linson said, was to have participating international partners share their ideas and techniques. For the Air Force, the lessons learned from Afghanistan airdrops were particularly important.
"Sharing these techniques was naturally beneficial to all involved," Linson added.
Numbers aside, the most important factor behind the high number of airdrops may be the possible lives saved by keeping convoys off the road in the remote, land-locked areas of Afghanistan and the future potential for Air Force airdrop operations.